Himachal Pradesh, (literally “snow-laden province”) is a state of India located in North India. Situated in Western Himalayas. It is bordered by Jammu and Kashmir on the north, Punjab on the west, Haryana on the southwest, Uttarakhand on the southeast, and the Tibet Autonomous Region on the east. At its southernmost point, it also touches the state of Uttar Pradesh. The name was coined from the Sanskrit—Him means ‘snow’ and achal means ‘land’ or ‘abode’—by acharya Diwakar Datt Sharma, one of the state’s eminent Sanskrit scholars.
Himachal Pradesh is known for its natural environment, hill stations, and temples. Himachal Pradesh had one of the highest per-capita incomes among Indian states and union territories for the year 2014-15. Many perennial rivers flow in the state. Numerous plants produce surplus hydroelectricity that is sold to other states, such as Delhi, Punjab, and Rajasthan. Tourism and agriculture are also important constituents of the state’s economy.
The state is spread across valleys. About 90% of the population lives in rural areas. Practically all houses have a toilet and 100% hygiene has been achieved in the state. The villages have good connectivity with roads, public health centres, and high-speed broadband.
Shimla district has the largest urban population in the state at 25%. Notable government actions include a ban on polyethylene bags and tobacco products. According to a survey of CMS – India Corruption Study 2017, Himachal Pradesh is India’s least corrupt state.
The history of the area that now constitutes Himachal Pradesh dates to the Indus valley civilisation that flourished between 2250 and 1750 BCE. Tribes such as the Koili, Hali, Dagi, Dhaugri, Dasa, Khasa, Kinnar, and Kirat inhabited the region from the prehistoric era.
During the Vedic period, several small republics known as Janapada existed which were later conquered by the Gupta Empire. After a brief period of supremacy by King Harshavardhana, the region was divided into several local powers headed by chieftains, including some Rajput principalities. These kingdoms enjoyed a large degree of independence and were invaded by Delhi Sultanate a number of times. Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Kangra at the beginning of the 10th century. Timur and Sikander Lodi also marched through the lower hills of the state and captured a number of forts and fought many battles. Several hill states acknowledged Mughal suzerainty and paid regular tribute to the Mughals.
The Kingdom of Gorkha conquered many kingdoms and came to power in Nepal in 1768. They consolidated their military power and began to expand their territory. Gradually, the Kingdom of Nepal annexed Sirmour and Shimla. Under the leadership of Amar Singh Thapa, the Nepali army laid siege to Kangra. They managed to defeat Sansar Chand Katoch, the ruler of Kangra, in 1806 with the help of many provincial chiefs. However, the Nepali army could not capture Kangra fort which came under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1809. After the defeat, they began to expand towards the south of the state. However, Raja Ram Singh, Raja of Siba State, captured the fort of Siba from the remnants of Lahore Darbar in Samvat 1846, during the First Anglo-Sikh War.
They came into direct conflict with the British along the tarai belt after which the British expelled them from the provinces of the Satluj. The British gradually emerged as the paramount power in the region. In the revolt of 1857, or first Indian war of independence, arising from a number of grievances against the British, the people of the hill states were not as politically active as were those in other parts of the country. They and their rulers, with the exception of Bushahr, remained more or less inactive. Some, including the rulers of Chamba, Bilaspur, Bhagal and Dhami, rendered help to the British government during the revolt.
The British territories came under the British Crown after Queen Victoria‘s proclamation of 1858. The states of Chamba, Mandi and Bilaspur made good progress in many fields during the British rule. During World War I, virtually all rulers of the hill states remained loyal and contributed to the British war effort, both in the form of men and materials. Among these were the states of Kangra, Jaswan, Datarpur, Guler, Rajgarh, Nurpur, Chamba, Suket, Mandi, and Bilaspur.
After independence, the Chief Commissioner’s Province of Himachal Pradesh. was organized on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudal princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya. These were known as the Simla Hills States and four Punjab southern hill states under the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 and 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged into Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954.
Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1951 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lieutenant Governor was appointed. The Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a union territory on 1 November 1956. Some areas of Punjab State—namely Simla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District, besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Kanungo circle of Pathankot tehsil of Gurdaspur District—were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment by Parliament of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament, and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Himachal became the 18th state of the Indian Union with Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar as its first chief minister.
There are twelve districts in Himachel Pradesh State:
- Shimla — the state capital and once the summer capital of the British Raj is a cool and charming Himalayan outpost. Major attractions include the Institute of Advanced Studies aka Vice Regal Lodge (the summer residence of the Viceroy during the Raj), along with numerous Raj-era buildings dotting the Heritage walk on The Ridge. It is the biggest city in Himachal Pradesh.
- Bir — a small town with a large Tibetan community and several Buddhist monasteries.
- Dalhousie — a sleepy little town which retains its Victorian charm.
- Dharamsala — the home of the Dalai Lama and India’s largest Tibetan community, and a major Buddhisit center.Now the 2nd capital of H.P.
- Kullu — District HQ of Kullu district, a few km south of Manali. Manali is tehsil of Kullu district.
- Manali — a buzzing and popular hill station in Kullu District. A good base to acclimatise if heading further in Lahaul & Spiti or towards Leh. The last big town for preparing for any adventure in the higher mountains.
- Jogindernagar — popularly known as Electric City or The City of Powerhouses, the town has scenic hill resorts and tourist attractions nearby.
- Keylong — a small town and HQ of Lahul & Spiti district. It lies on the way from Manali to Leh. Last petrol pump (gas station) of Manali-Leh highway is here.
- Bilaspur — First city in Himachal Pradesh on the way to Manali. Main attraction is Govind Sagar Lake. It’s hot in the summer and cold in winter.
- Sundernagar — first town of Mandi District on way to Manali. Main attraction is Sundernagar Lake.
- Mandi — District HQ of Mandi district. Major town. Main attraction is Revalsar Lake.
- Rewalsar (Tibetan: Tsopema) – a lake sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus
- Masroor Rock Cut Temples (Masrur Temples) http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/India/HimachalPradesh/Masroor.htm – Sometimes in the 8th or 9th century – but most likely in the second half of the 8th century – one of the characteristic sandstone ridges in Kangri valley was reshaped in a miraculous way.
Geography and climate:-
Himachal is in the western Himalayas. Covering an area of 55,673 square kilometres (21,495 sq mi), it is a mountainous state. Most of the state lies on the foothills of the Dhauladhar Range. At 7,025 m Shilla is the highest mountain peak in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The drainage system of Himachal is composed both of rivers and glaciers. Himalayan rivers criss-cross the entire mountain chain. Himachal Pradesh provides water to both the Indus and Ganges basins. The drainage systems of the region are the Chandra Bhaga or the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej, and the Yamuna. These rivers are perennial and are fed by snow and rainfall. They are protected by an extensive cover of natural vegetation.
Due to extreme variation in elevation, great variation occurs in the climatic conditions of Himachal . The climate varies from hot and subhumid tropical in the southern tracts to, with more elevation, cold, alpine, and glacial in the northern and eastern mountain ranges. The state’s winter capital, Dharamsala receives very heavy rainfall, while areas like Lahaul and Spiti are cold and almost rainless. Broadly, Himachal experiences three seasons: summer, winter, and rainy season. Summer lasts from mid-April till the end of June and most parts become very hot (except in the alpine zone which experiences a mild summer) with the average temperature ranging from 28 to 32 °C (82 to 90 °F). Winter lasts from late November till mid March. Snowfall is common in alpine tracts (generally above 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) i.e. in the higher and trans-Himalayan region).
Flora and fauna:-
Himachal Pradesh is one of the states that lies in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), one of the richest reservoirs of biological diversity in the world. The IHR is currently undergoing large scale irrational extraction of wild, medicinal herbs, thus endangering many of its high-value gene stock. To address this, a workshop on ‘Endangered Medicinal Plant Species in Himachal Pradesh’ was held in 2002 and the conference was attended by forty experts from diverse disciplines.
According to 2003 Forest Survey of India report, legally defined forest areas constitute 66.52% of the area of Himachal Pradesh. Vegetation in the state is dictated by elevation and precipitation. The state endows with a high diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants. Lahaul-Spiti region of the state, being a cold desert, supports unique plants of medicinal value including Ferula jaeschkeana, Hyoscyamus niger, Lancea tibetica, and Saussurea bracteata.
Himachal is also said to be the fruit bowl of the country, with orchards being widespread. Meadows and pastures are also seen clinging to steep slopes. After the winter season, the hillsides and orchards bloom with wild flowers, while gladiolas, carnations, marigolds, roses, chrysanthemums, tulips and lilies are carefully cultivated. The state government is gearing up to make Himachal Pradesh as the flower basket of the world. Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd. (HPMC) is a state body that markets fresh and processed fruits.
Himachal Pradesh has around 463 bird 77 mammalian, 44 reptile and 80 fish species. Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Pin Valley National Park are the national Parks located in the state. The state also has 30 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 conservation reserves.
Himachal has a rich heritage of handicrafts. These include woolen and pashmina shawls, carpets, silver and metal ware, embroidered chappals, grass shoes, Kangra and Gompa style paintings, wood work, horse-hair bangles, wooden and metal utensils and various other house hold items. These aesthetic and tasteful handicrafts declined under competition from machine made goods and also because of lack of marketing facilities. But now the demand for handicrafts has increased within and outside the country.
Hindi, Pahari, Punjabi and English are the main languages found in the state. Pahari is a dialect more closely related to Dogri language in lower Himachal. In upper Himachal language of Tibetan origin are used in daily conversation. Every district has its own dialect e.g. kuhluri(bilaspuri), mandyali, suketi.
Shimla, Kullu (for Manali) and Kangra or Pathankot (for Dharamsala) have small airports, with services largely limited to Delhi. Flights are frequently cancelled or delayed by adverse weather. In addition the airport in Pathankot (Punjab) can be a convenient connection for Dharamsala and Dalhousie. If you are on a tight budget you might want to skip this option as it is way more costly than other mode of transportation. Airfare on this route is one of the highest in world for a given unit distance. Airport in Shimla is at Jubbal Hatti which is around 40 km away from main Shimla City.
Given the difficult geographical position of State there is very little penetration of railway network. Little rail network available give access to peripheral districts and capital Shimla. Nevertheless it is an amazing experience going from Kalka to Shimla. Kalka-Shimla railway track is also UNESCO world heritage site. Few points in Himachal are easily accessible by train, but there are narrow-gauge railways from Pathankot (Punjab) to Kangra and Kalka (Haryana) to Shimla. This will take you through beautiful rural Himalayan regions. The ride beyond Kangra is amazing. You ride along the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas via Palampur and Baijnath to Joginder Nagar. The region is criss crossed by rivers and streams.
Bus is the only practical means of getting to many points in Himachal. All cities of interest have direct services to Delhi. There are three different entry routes to Himachal if you are coming from Delhi.
- Delhi-Chandigarh-Shimla-Kaza route.
- Delhi-Chandigarh-Kangra-Dharamsala or Delhi-Chandigarh-Kangra-Chamba
all three routes are interconnected within Himachal. It is cheapest means to travel in and around Himachal. There are Volvo buses operated by Himachal State Transport Corporation on these routes.
You need inner line permit to visit some part of kinnaur and spiti district.
Travel by bus can be done throughout for very little (15 hour bus rides are rarely more than a few hundred rupees) on the public buses, and though uncomfortable, are a great way to meet people. Though be careful, as riding an Indian bus is already a hair-raising experience, and riding an Indian bus on steep mountain roads is even more intimidating!
Enfield motorcycles can be rented here for less than 5 dollars a day, with no verification of a motorcycle license. Note that the area may not be the best place to learn how to ride.
Tourism in Himachal Pradesh is a major contributor to the state’s economy and growth. The mountainous state with its Himalayan landscapes attracts tourists from all over the world. Hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie, Chamba, Dharamshala and Kullu are popular destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists. The state has many important pilgrimage centres with prominent Hindu temples like Naina Devi Temple, Vajreshwari Devi Temple, Jwala Ji Temple, Chintpurni, Chamunda Devi Temple, Baijnath Temple, Bhimakali Temple, Bijli Mahadev, Manu Temple at Shenshar in Kullu district, Renuka Lake and Jakhoo Temple. The state is also referred to as “Dev Bhoomi” (literally meaning Abode of Gods) due to its mention in ancient holy texts and occurrence of large number of historical temples in the state.
It is also called the Land of the Gods on account of the Hindu belief that deities like Lord Shiva considered the Himalayas their home, and much of the state is located among the Himalayan mountains. Although modern pop-literature writers online have often also referred to Uttarakhand as the land of the gods because it also contains Himalayan mountains, officially it is Himachal Pradesh that has been considered the land of the gods since before the state of Uttarakhand existed (the UK as it is abbreviated on license plates for automobiles in the state, and the state was founded in the year 2000.). A tourism department board on the road when entering Himachal Pradesh from the state of Punjab states “Welcome to the Land of the Gods.”
The state is also known for its adventure tourism activities like ice skating in Shimla, paragliding in Bir-billing and Solang valley, rafting in Kullu, skiing in Manali boating in Bilaspur and trekking, horse riding and fishing in different parts in the state. Spiti Valley in Lahaul & Spiti District situated at an altitude of over 3000 metres with its picturesque landscapes is an important destination for adventure seekers. The region also has some of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in Asia.
Tattapani is a beautiful destination in the middle of himalayas near the river sutlej. Tattapani is famous for its natural hot sulphur springs on the bank of the lake. It is also famous for boating, rafting, camping and ayurvedic & naturaopahtic treatments offered there only.
Himachal hosted the first Paragliding World Cup in India from 24 October to 31 October in 2015.Venue for paragliding world cup was Bir Billing, which is 70 km from the tourist town Macleod ganj, located in the heart of Himachal in Kangra District. Bir Billing is the centre for aero sports in Himachal and considered as best for paragliding. Buddhist monasteries, trekking to tribal villages, mountain biking are other activities to do here.
Trekking opportunities are plenty in the state, here are a few:
- Baralacha-Chandratal Trek — starts from Manali, ends at Chandratal Lake (“Moon” Lake)
- Bhabha Pass Trek — known for lush green flower strewn meadows, picturesque and dense forests. he path for bhaba pass trek passes through a mixed forest of conifers as well as crop fields of Mastrang.
- Bir Bhangal Trek — Bir Bhangal Trek is only for the experienced trekkers who have the experience of solid hiking and camping. This is one of the challenging trekking trails which starts from the Kullu valley.
- Darcha Lamayuru Trek — this is one of the most popular trekking treks in the Himachal Pradesh, and one of the most traversing trek, passing through the Zanskar
- Darcha Padum Trek
- Deo Tibba Expedition
- Friendship Peak Expedition
- Hampta Pass
- Indrahar Pass
Trekking routes in Himachal
- Hamta Trek
- Malana History Trek
- Chander Trail in Kullu Valley
- Wild Trek in Kullu Valley
- Dharamsala Chhota Bhangal over sari Pass Kullu
- Morchella trek
- Manali Hamya Herbal Trek
- Kinner Kailash Parikrama
- Hamirpur Deotsidh Sri Naina Devi Trek
- Maidi to Nadaun
- Bharmaur Kugti Udaipur Manali trek
- Buddhism. Classes for study of Buddhism are taught in Dharamsala and Bir.
- Yoga. There are several places to study yoga in Dharamsala.
Hindi is the official language of Himachal Pradesh and is spoken by the majority of the population as a lingua franca. English is given the status of an additional official language. Most of the languages spoken natively belong to the group of the Himachali languages.
Hinduism is the major religion in Himachal Pradesh. More than 95% of the total population adheres to the Hindu faith, the distribution of which is evenly spread throughout the state. Himachal Pradesh has the highest proportion of Hindu population among all the states and union territories in India.
Other religions that form a small percentage are Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism. Muslims are mainly concentrated in Sirmaur, Chamba, Una and Solan districts where they form 2.53-6.27% of the population. The Lahaulis of Lahaul and Spiti region are mainly Buddhists. Sikhs mostly live in towns and cities and constitute 1.16% of the state population. The Buddhists, who constitute 1.15%, are mainly natives and tribals from Lahaul and Spiti, where they form a majority of 62%, and Kinnaur, where they form 21.5%.
Himachal Pradesh was one of the few states that had remained largely untouched by external customs, largely due to its difficult terrain. With the technological advancements, the state has changed very rapidly. Himachal Pradesh is a multireligional, multicultural as well as multilingual state like other Indian states. Some of the most commonly spoken languages are Kullvi, Mandeali, Kangri and Kinnauri, Chambeali . The Hindu communities residing in Himachal include the Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasthas (Kaisthas), Kannets, Rathis and Kolis. There are also tribal population in the state which mainly comprise Gaddis, Kinnars, Gujjars, Pangawals and Lahaulis.
Himachal is well known for its handicrafts. The carpets, leather works, shawls, Kangra paintings, Chamba rumals, metalware, woodwork and paintings are worth appreciating. Pashmina shawl is one of the products which is highly in demand not only in Himachal but all over the country. Himachali caps are also well-known art work of the people. Local music and dance reflects the cultural identity of the state. Through their dance and music, they entreat their gods during local festivals and other special occasions.
Apart from the fairs and festivals that are celebrated all over India, there are number of other fairs and festivals, including the temple fairs in nearly every region that are of great significance to Himachal Pradesh. The day to day food of Himachalis is very similar to the rest of the north India. They too have lentil, broth, rice, vegetables and bread. As compared to other states in north India non-vegetarian cuisine is more preferred. Some of the specialities of Himachal include Mhanee,Madhra,Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til. Shimla, the state’s summer capital, Dharamshala, the state’s winter capital, is home to Asia’s only natural ice skating rink.
HP food is often very simple but nutritious, including daal, rice, roti, vegetables, paneer, curds and pickles in the Punjabi influenced Pahari regions. Further North, Tibetan influence is stronger and barley is the main staple grain. Some of the specialities of Himachal include Manee’,Madira,Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til.
In the Tibetan influenced regions, “Chhang” (fermented rice wine) is common.
There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in and around District HQ as well as main tourist places. There are rest houses of HP PWD & Forest department at places where it is hard to find hotels.
- The Himalayan – Luxury Resort & Spa http://www.thehimalayan.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +91 1902-250999/250777, 8894005999 The Himalayan is an exclusive boutique resort located 1.5 kms. from Manali town centre on Hadimba Road. Tucked away amidst an apple & cherry orchard are 8 luxurious guest rooms in the Gothic Revival style Castle (all with four-poster beds & antique armoires) and 8 cottages (each with 2 Bedrooms complete with en-suite bathrooms, dining & drawing space with working fire place). All cottages have their own private gardens, balconies & mountain views. Conference, Bar, Restaurant & In-room dining is available. Gymnasium, Croquet, Trampoline & Table Tennis provided. Refectory restaurant serves Continental & Indian cuisine. The Dungeon bar is atmospheric with pews & chesterfields. The Forge Boardroom is fully equipped for Conferences/ Offsite Meetings. Manali’s only al-fresco Swimming Pool is open to Non-residents at a charge. Quiet understated luxury with stellar views.
- De Ocean Inn, Phone: +91 98 17 111004 /+919218704740,Location:Kanyal Road, Simsa, Manali, Himachal Pradesh 1751311,Website:http://www.deoceaninnmanali.in, Email:email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org, Facilities: Tea/coffee maker in room.• Toiletries in bathroom.• 24 Hrs room service.• room heater during winter.• • colour T.V. with multi channels• cyber-cafe & Wi-Fi availability• laundry & dry cleaning services •multi-cuisine roof-top restaurant• travel desk.• scenic terrace for relaxation• power backup.• doctor on call• ample parking• valet service• free lodging for drivers. Also offers “Budget Tours” in Himachal Pradesh. Cheap accomodation and cheap tours. Will customise tours for any type of budget.
- Archie’s Place, Phone: +91 99 10 743397, Location: Batharr Village, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. The place is run by a really sweet host, Archie Maity, where, you can come in and stay, at a budget expense, for as long as you want. Its the real, Himachal Pradesh sojourn, at a village, 15kms from Manali, in the midst of mountains and the forest. One can go for a trekking experience, which is one of its kind, and arrangements like barbecue can be set up on your request. Come along, for a horde of rustic and exciting memories. The stay is INR 500 a day or INR 15000 a month, whichever suits you.